Carmen Miller
 
 
    
 

 
 

There's no better place to be yourself than in the kitchen. Your kitchen is a natural laboratory, a place where you can (within the bounds of basic food safety, of course -- we don't want to kill anybody) experiment, play, think outside the box, break the rules. Don't we all tweak recipes, change this or that, skip things we don't like or have in the kitchen, add things we love to make them even better? Think of a favorite dish made by someone you know -- what makes you crave it? Individuality is the key to memorable cooking.

Nicoise Salad is a perfect example of this, with endless versions that seem as varied as the people who make them. A French classic like this might seem fancy and intimidating, but it's actually just a great combination of humble ingredients, most of which are available year-round. You can cook the eggs, potatoes and beans up to a day in advance, which certainly simplifies your dinner prep. What is required for a classic Nicoise Salad is the subject of endless debate -- therein lies its beauty and your ability to make it your own. Some purists insist on only canned tuna, but I can't resist seared or grilled rare tuna. I have a friend who likes her Nicoise with salmon, so that's what she uses. This isn't even a recipe, so much as a suggestion -- be yourself when you make this (or anything else), and you can't miss.

Grilled Tuna Nicoise Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon blue agave or honey

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 8-ounce tuna steaks

1 5-ounce packages of mixed greens

1 red pepper, cut into thin strips

8 ounces green beans

1 pound small red-skinned potatoes, quartered

1/2 cup Kalamata olives

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

1 3-ounce can anchovies, drained (optional)

1. Whisk the first four ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in a bowl of ice water. Drain, and pat dry. Add the potatoes to the boiling water, and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

3. Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill the tuna steaks over high heat to desired doneness, 1 minute per side for rare, 2 minutes per side for medium. Slice the tuna steaks across the grain into 1/4-inch strips.

4. Arrange the greens in a large shallow bowl, and arrange the remaining ingredients in a decorative fashion. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.